New Work: "The Stone of Sacrifice"

Spectral Realms #4 is now available from Hippocampus Press!

This would be cause for celebration in any case, but I am particularly happy it contains my new poem, "The Stone of Sacrifice". As well as Margi Curtis's "The Ghosts of Samhain Past", Leigh Blackmore's "The Adverse Star" and "Souls of Samhain", a "Weird Tale" by Charles Danny Lovecraft, along with new works by Wade German, ankh_hpl, Ashley Dioses, KA Opperman, Adam Bolivar and many, many others!

This marks my second appearence in this journal, edited by S. T. Joshi and devoted to the darkly poetical. You may order a copy through this link here.

"The Stone of Sacrifice" is the direct result of attending the Aztecs exhibition at the Australian Museum in Sydney. That's on College Street, Sydney, for you Cthulhu buffs. I've been going there for decades and have never found the statue, but this time I at least found inspiration.

"You may well wonder how the stone survived.

Wasn't it destroyed? Wasn't it cast down

when soldiers sanctified by shot and steel

arrived to slaughter its red-handed priests

and sacked their city, melted down their gold?

And how could it endure the missionaries

that raised their cross upon the temple steps?

Then followed the accretion of clay brick,

of roads and rails, and concrete at the last..."

A List: My Hugo Picks
Mainly for my own future reference, here is a list of those items I intend to nominate for the 2016 Hugo Awards, when nomination open in the near future. Although the result of frenetic reading and viewing, it does not include every category and some of those categories which do show up are covered pretty thinly. But the first round ballot for the Stokers has just been posted so I'm closing off my Hugo reading NOW.

I welcome comments, comparisons and discussion, but it'll have to be quick!


The Art of Effective Dreaming, Gillian Polack, Satalyte Publishing

Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit

Persona, Genevieve Valentine, Saga

The Just City, Jo Walton, Tor


"What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear", Bao Shu, trans. Ken Liu, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April

"The Whimper", Robert Hood, Peripheral Visions: the Collected Ghost Stories, IFWG Publishing Australia

The Box Jumper, Lisa Mannetti, Smart Rhino Publications

Binti, Nnedi Okorafor, a book


"And The Balance In Blood", Elizabeth Bear, Uncanny #7

"Precious Things", V. H. Leslie, The Outsiders, ed. Joe Mynhardt, Crystal Lake Publishing

"Ambiguity Machines: an Examination", Vandana Singh,, 29 April

"Hot Rods", Cat Sparks, Lightspeed #58

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Still Life With Vegetables

The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland

An exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, viewed 9th January 2016.


When I stepped into the final chamber, it was like a swarm of some glittering, humming insects clinging to the left hand wall. It drew me to it and there I stood with my friend Laura, gazing at a rendition of poplar trees beside a river. No deeper topic or focus, no great range of shades and those primarily green and blue. Yet I could not take my eyes away. It felt as if Poplars on the Epte, painted by Claude Monet in 1891, was rewiring my optic nerves.

There is nothing quite like seeing a work of art in the original. This is because no matter how carefully a print or photograph was taken, whatever pains were expended on the colours and tonal qualities, the paper stock and scale, it bears a relation to the original similar to that which canned fruit or vegetables bear to fresh. I find it's the same with music: no matter how much I love a recording, it is still canned music. All those glorious coffee table books in my library are canned art. This exhibition was a farmer's market.

I have never been to the National Gallery of Scotland. Neither, it seems, have I managed to see much Monet. And it was far from the only treasure in this compact yet wonderfully varied display, that commenced with a tiny piece of parchment on which Leonardo da Vinci had sketched a dog's paw. Some wonderfully curly dog with big, strong toes: a hunting hound, I have no doubt.

On the end wall of the same room was Mars, Venus and Cupid by Paolo Veronese, dated "about 1580". This was the wall and, in addition, clearly a studio piece with the models draped in textured fabrics and posed against a backdrop as lively as any stage set and bearing no little resemblance to 1890s photographic portrait. There was another dog, a little spaniel playfully mauling the child god, but the difference between this and the da Vinci could not have been more marked. Moreover, the tension between large and small, vision and composition, ran through the exhibit like currents.

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Tea and Biscuits


"Heyla, heyla... c'mon, you know it now!"

"Heyla, heyla." The chant echoes back and forth, from the bedisked and furrowed ceiling of the Enmore Theatre, to the luminous blue stage. Row upon row of partially lit heads sway and sound, else glance around them with twitchy shoulders, as three layers of drumming abrades the third wall.

"Heyla... Heyla... you're doing voodo!" Never ceasing to drum, the central figure seems to smile with his entire body. "You're doing voodoo now!"

I came to The Tea Party so recently that I completely missed their reunion tour. I won't apologise for this: I spent my adolescence in a wasteland when it came to contemporary music, listening to Bach on cassette tape and attending the opera with my Nanna. When they toured last year upon the release of The Ocean at the End, I was in Europe, but now you may picture me travelling through Tuscany with Interzone Mantras playing as loud as my earbuds will permit in order to drown out the rest of the coach party.

But this is why I was so impressed with the T-shirt on the fellow standing two ahead of David and myself in the queue outside. It was the kind of grey that was originally black and the seams were splitting. Following a long list of locations and dates, it read THE EDGE OF TWILIGHT 1996. We were here, in the considerable humidity, to celebrate this album's 20th anniversary. Had this man really bought his T-shirt on that first tour, treasured it in some bottom drawer and resurrected it for the occasion? I might have tapped his fraying shoulder, and asked, except that the line started moving and I am besides, still shy.

The Tea Party are one of the most dazzlingly competent live acts that I have ever seen (which includes three different productions of The Magic Flute). How to explain what I mean? Perhaps I can cast it in literary terms. This trio are such superb co-writers, with such an eclectic vocabulary, that they can slip effortlessly from conventional, if evocative, third person perspective to omniscient narration, then quote relevant classics while engaging in intimate first person, and never once losing or confusing the reader: all this, in Jeff Martin's thrilling, dark-honey voice.

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Photos: The Eye of Anubis
Very strange things happened last night, at Sydcon 10!


Of course we had a sarcophagus. To see what came out of it, please go here.

Tales of Inappropriate LARP
In honour of my return to the realm of freeform, I am posting this short essay, written for a publication which eventually passed on it but gave me a kill fee. So that's all right.


So there I am, crouching behind a fallen tree in my full Raven Warrior get-up, beside a little-used path in the Berowra Valley bush reserve. I hear voices, but they're not the right voices. I crane my neck and, to my horror, see two middle-aged women manoeuvring bicycles along the path, towards the point where I have set a trap for the gallant group of adventurers who are due absolutely any moment now. I have no choice. Ditching my weapon, I spring up, smiling.

  “Good afternoon, Ma'am! I'm sorry to intrude, but you're in the area of our live game.”

  “What do you mean?” By her expression, she's expecting me to threaten her with a needle.

  “It's a – a kind of orienteering thing, except we all dress up,” I say, thinking, didn't they see the players? They must be right behind them! “We have Council permission to be here, but that's the explanation for anything odd you might see.” Or the Rock Face. Five minutes walk behind them, there's a massive foam rubber puppet sitting on a cliff! “And we've set up one of our props just here on the path. Might I ask if it would be possible for you to, ah, just duck around this spot?”

  “I don't think so!”

  “Then if you'll please wait for just a few seconds...” Somehow, I manage to whisk away the snap-traps without setting any off. I bow and assure them that the path is now clear. They wheel their bikes through, glaring at me all the while. No sooner have they vanished, than I hear the right voices.

  I drop back down and ram the snap-traps back into place.

  They go off in my face.

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New Work: The Eye of Anubis

"Barely forty-eight hours ago, the renowned Egyptologist Sir Stanley Pendulous was discovered dead in his study. The attending doctor certified death by heart attack but many people, including Sir Stanley, were unconvinced. His Will dictates that a séance be held, in order to determine whether he too is a victim of the infamous Curse.

Talk of a curse began shortly after Stanley's hasty return, three years ago, from a dig in the ruins of Cynopolis, near the town of el Kays in Upper Egypt. Excavation of the hitherto unknown tomb of a High Priest of Anubis was terminated by the death of his partner and son-in-law, Doctor Martin Snide, together with the expedition photographer. These deaths were said to have been occasioned by the collapse of the tomb roof in an unseasonable sandstorm. Most of the excavation records were lost, but Stanley was nonetheless able to retrieve a number of objects: a rich but empty sarcophagus, a valuable necklace, and most spectacular of all, the black sapphire that has come to be known as the Eye of Anubis. These items have remained in Stanley's keeping ever since.

Mrs Amber Valence, a medium patronised by some of the most respectable families in London society, has been engaged, and will be gazing into the Eye itself. Guests may also pay their final respects to Sir Stanley, who lies in state in the sarcophagus he retrieved. Invitations have been issued to family and friends, relevant dignitaries, members of the occult fraternity, and a number of Stanley's professional colleagues. In deference to the sad occasion, guests are asked to come in mourning or formal attire, and above all else, not to speak to the press."


For the first time in more years than I wish to calculate, I am running a game at Sydcon. The game is a brand new freeform, titled The Eye of Anubis. As registration has now opened, below the cut you shall find the list of characters. I am taking advance reservations in order to facilitate costuming, though all reservations are provisional, pending confirmation of your place in the game.

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New Work: "The Leucrotta"

It's escaped! I mean, it's out! Oh, anyway: Gods, Memes and Monsters: a 21st Century Bestiary is now available from Stone Skin Press.

Edited by the inestimable Heather J. Wood, it includes my entry on the Leucrotta, Jon Blum on Meme Mosquitoes and the Greater Spotted Capital, Patrick O'Duffy on the Catoblepas, Greg Stolze on the Tedious Finch, Peter Birch's Erotic Goblins and the unadulterated terror of the Stiff Mogs, as witnessed by Rupert Booth. With many, many more creatures guaranteed to unsettle the urban night and make you think twice about visiting the British Museum. Ever again, seriously.


The leucrotta is a seriously ancient and under-estimated monster. Those who remember today think it was invented for 1st Ed. D&D, but I assure you, this is not so. Not the least because of the copyright violation that would entail. This entry is also my tribute to the late, lamented Club Ascension that used to run at the Sly Fox in Enmore. I fear it succumbed to forces much more mundane.

It's available at the usual Impersonal Online Retailers (who otherwise do not appear). But if you are interested, you really might as well go straight to Stone Skin Press for either the paperback or ebook versions.

Review: Skin Deep

by Gary Kemble, Echo Publishing, 2015

Reviewed by Kyla Ward, 2013

"But then after the war... ah, I dunno, war just teaches you the real meaning of fear."

Harry Hendricks is a journalist who has never been near a war. The closest he's come was when his expose of corruption in Brisbane city was sabotaged, leaving his career in tatters. But he's getting an education all the same and his own skin is the whiteboard. In this thoroughly contemporary ghost story, you can forget about haunted houses: as Harry soon realises, he's contending with a haunted body.

"Harry moaned. The top third of his back was covered in blood. In some places deep red, in others purple and black as it started to dry. There was a tattoo underneath, but he couldn't see it through the blood...

...He wasn't doing this to himself. He knew that now. So someone or something was doing it to him."

Discovering the who and why is no straightforward task. Harry finds himself tracing a conspiracy from Afghanistan to Canberra, from motorcycle gangs to property developers, and the situation escalates quickly. Harry is no coward, but the tattoos and the alien memories they anchor expose him to a different kind of masculinity than his own, presenting a direct challenge to his already battered ego. In many ways, the real battle is for the journalist to trust in his own skills and cling to his own values in the face of ever-increasing opposition.

Brisbane's body is haunted too. Heritage sites such as the old water tower tattoo the landscape with meanings opportunistic development can only wish to erase. Community groups and local newspapers mount their defence against big money and scurrilous tactics. This battle, familiar to the residents of any Australian city, plays out beside the other, and gives the novel its rich and particular texture. Gary Kemble, once of Brisbane and still a journalist, has constructed his fiction on a foundation of recent events. It's just that, in his universe, things didn't play out in quite the same way. I have it on good authority, for instance, that Mr Kemble is not a near-alcoholic whose girlfriend has just left him.

To read the full review, go here.

New Work: "Cursebreaker: The Mutalibeen and the Memphite Mummies"
The third Cursebreaker story is finally available today, in the new Ticonderoga Press anthology Hear Me Roar. They wanted stories of real women and unreal worlds, though in my case the inverse might be more accurate. Being Ticonderoga Press, they also wanted top notch writing, and though I say so myself, that's what they got with Cat Sparks's "Veteran's Day", Jane Routley's "Barista", Jenny Blackford's "The Sorrow", Kathleen Jennings's "A Hedge of Yellow Roses"... I could just keep going. But here, take a look for yourself.


"The Mutalibeen and the Memphite Mummies" is a cases of research gone out of all control. I did insane things for this. I combed through The Greek Magical Papyri (in translation including the Demotic Spells, ed. Han Dieter Betz, University of Chicago Press, 1992 (1986)) searching for keywords. I performed my own translations from the French of Silvestre de Sacy's 1810 translation from the Arabic of Abd – Allatif's 12th century Description of Egypt, in which he describes the ruins of Memphis and the practice of treasure hunting at that time - thanks once again to the restricted section of the Mitchell Library. This is what happenes when I get a bee in my bonnet.

It all goes back to my article "Tomb Raider", in Dragon #327 (January 2005). Here, I attempted to re-examine the D&D trope of looting ancient tombs with real world examples. I discovered the fact that in 12th century Egypt, looting the tombs of the Pharaohs was a specific kind of employment strictly regulated by the Caliphate. But, it was my place to do the work. It's yours to read a story in which it is hopefully undetectable.

“Ah! Allah have mercy!”

“Hello to you too.”

“Ouchioch! Osoronophris! Ouserrannouphthi! Do not touch me, foul ghul!”

“Now that's just rude... "


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